Uxmal, "Built Three Times", (Yucatec Maya: Ã“oxmÃ¡al), is a large Maya
site located 34 miles south of MÃ©rida on Highway 261. Many buildings
have been consolidated and restored. Currently little in the way of
serious archeological excavation and research has been done at Uxmal
Acurate dates of occupation are not known. The population is estimated
to have reached 25,000. Most visible architecture is estimated to have
been built between 600 AD and 1100 AD. Uxmal was founded by Hun Uitzil
Chac Tutul Xiu around 500 AD. The Xiu family controlled Uxmal until
after the Spanish arrival. Sometime after 1200 AD all new monumental
construction ended at Uxmal. This end of construction may possibly be
related to the fall of Chichen Itza
(Ally to Uxmal) and the shift of
power in Yucatan
to Mayapan and the Comom family.
The Xiu family moved
their capital to ManÃ, and the population of Uxmal began to rapidly
declined. The Xui family allied themselves with the Spanish in the
conquest of the Yucatan. After the Spanish conquest of YucatÃ¡n, early
colonial documents significant legal activity and a place of importance
to the Xui family into the 1550s.
It should be noted that before archaeologists began restoration and
consolidation activities that Uxmal was in better condition than most
other Maya sites because of superior construction materials,
engineering, experience of the labor force and work ethic. Most
structures were built with well cut stones set into a core of concrete,
not relying on plaster to hold the building together. The Maya
architecture here is considered matched only by that of Palenque
elegance and beauty.
The majority of the structures are built in the
Puuc style. Puuc architecture has several predominant features, most
notably constructions with a plain lower section and a richly decorated
upper section. Carvings most commonly found include serpents, lattice
work and masks of the god Chac. There are a number of must see
structures at Uxmal.
The Palace of the Governor is a long low building erected on a huge
platform, it is the longest faÃ§ade in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
The Adivino "Pyramid of the Magician" is unusual in several ways. First
the perimeter shape is oval, rather than the usual rectangular or
square shape. It was a common practice in Mesoamerica to build new
temple pyramids directly over older ones, however, the last
construction phase of the Adivino (117 feet tall) was built slightly to
the east of the older pyramid, so that on the west side the temple the
old pyramid is visible.
The Nunnery Quadrangle (A name applied by the
Spanish; is thought to be the seat of the government. It is the finest
example elaborately carved facades. Both the inside and outside faces
of each of the four buildings of this quad have the carved mosaic
applied to the upper portions of each. There are 74 small rooms
contained in the four buildings that suraround the courtyard. Each of
the four buildings has a unique ornate faÃ§ade, and each is built on a
different level. The northern building is the oldest and the grandest;
here you can see many typical Puuc embellishments - Chac masks arranged
one over another vertically, serpents and lattice work. The building to
the east and closest to the House of the Magician is the best
preserved, with a stack of Chac masks over the central doorway and
serpents above the doorways to the left and right.
The exact purpose of
the group is not known, though, given the size and importance of the
site, it is thought likely to have housed visiting dignitaries or
administrative offices. There is a large Ballcourt for playing the
Mesoamerican ballgame. An intact carved date glyph records the year of
dedicated in 901 by the ruler Chan Chak K'ak'nal Ajaw. A number of
other significant structure are the North Long Building, House of the
Birds, House of the Turtles, Grand Pyramid, House of the Doves, and
South Temple. The House of the Turtles is in excellent conditiion. It
sits on the same platform holding the Palace of the Governor and
overlooks the Ballcourt.
The majority of all of the hieroglyphic inscriptions present at Uxmal
are on a series of stone stelae. These stelae are grouped together on a
The stelae depict the ancient rulers of the city, and
all show signs that they were deliberately broken and toppled in
antiquity. Some of the stelae were re-erected and repaired. There are
remains of a hastily constructed defensive wall which may have
encircled most of the central ceremonial center. There is a wide Sacbe
(white road) that links Uxmal with the Kabah, that is about 12 miles to
the south. There is a considerable amount of archaeological evidence at
the small island Maya site of Uaymil linking it with Uxmal. Uaymil is
located to the west on the Gulf coast. It is likely that Uaymil served
as a port for Uxmal and provided the site access to the
circum-peninsular trade network.
The first detailed account of Uxmal was published by Jean Frederic
Waldeck in 1838.
John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood visited
Uxmal twice in the early 1840s. DÃ©sirÃ© Charnay took a series of
photographs of Uxmal in 1860. In 1863 Empress Carlota of Mexico visited
Uxmal. Prior to her visit some statues and architectural elements
depicting phallic themes were removed. Sylvanus G. Morley visited to
make a site map in 1909. Beginning id 1927 the Mexican government began
their consolidation project. In 1930 Frans Blom of Tulane University
visited Uxmal to make plaster casts of the faÃ§ades of the "Nunnery
Quadrangle" to be displayed at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago,
Illinois. There is a small site museum that should be visited prior to
exploring the site. The are 3 hotels within walking distance to the
ruins. You should allow 4 to 6 hours for your visit.
There has been an
evening sound and light show that should not be missed.The site is open
between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Admission fee is approximately $10.00 US
depending on the exchange rate.